Harper highlights energy concerns

Published 9:00 pm Friday, February 24, 2012

Local economic development, high gas prices and federal spending are among the topics Mississippi Third District U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper says he is asked about most as he begins a re-election campaign.

     Harper met with The DAILY LEADER editorial board Thursday in advance of the March 13 primaries in which he will face Republican challenger Robert Allen. The Republican nominee will run against Crystal Biggs in November for Mississippi’s third congressional seat.

     In the editorial board meeting, Harper praised the efforts of the Mississippi Development Authority.

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     “We’re doing pretty well in some areas at attracting some businesses,” he said.

     Speaking of Southwest Mississippi, Harper said cooperation among areas counties is important to economic development.

     “What happens to Copiah County is good for the surrounding counties,” Harper said.

     The congressman’s comments come on the heels of a resolution pushed by Brookhaven state Sen. Sally Doty and other area legislators pushing a coalition among the southernmost Mississippi counties.

     Brookhaven itself has much to offer, including good schools, Harper said.

     “Education is important,” Harper said. “It’s one of the first things people ask about when they’re thinking about relocating.”

     Speaking to an issue of both local and national interest, Harper described a need for a more effective national energy policy as a means to combat increasing gas prices.

     “The U.S. doesn’t have a failed energy policy, but almost a non-existent energy policy,” Harper said of the country under President Obama’s administration.

     Harper cited Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline as an example of this failure. The proposed pipeline would have linked Canada to oil refiners on the Gulf of Mexico.

     Critics contended that the pipeline route crossed a major Midwest aquifer, where an oil spill could be devastating. Obama ultimately rejected the pipeline application when faced with a congressionally imposed 60-day deadline.

     Harper said nixing the pipeline sent the wrong message and believes the pipeline could be rerouted if there are concerns about the aquifer. The congressman attributed Obama’s stance against the pipeline to a larger agenda.

     “This administration is so driven against carbon-based fuels,” Harper said.

     Harper also pointed to the offshore drilling moratorium put in place by Obama’s administration following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. In addition to the loss of oil to the country, Harper said this move pushed offshore drilling to other countries without the environmental regulations of the U.S.

     Harper also expressed frustration with the progress of attempts to trim the federal budget. The failure of a bill he introduced to end the Election Assistance Commission speaks to the troubles, Harper said.

     The bill would have transferred some EAC authority to the Federal Election Commission and would have saved $500 million over five years, according to Harper.

     “If you can’t cut something like that, what can you cut?” Harper said during the editorial board meeting.

     Harper is also skeptical of cuts to defense spending proposed by Obama, about $487 billion over 10 years.

     “China’s not getting weaker,” Harper said. “The only way to make sure no one messes with us is to remain the strongest kid on the block.”

     There is waste in the Pentagon budget but not of the sort to justify the cuts proposed, according to Harper.

     “A haircut is one thing, but they are talking about major cuts we don’t need to have,” Harper said.

     As he eyes the upcoming primaries and a possible November re-election to a third term, Harper acknowledged the deep unpopularity of Congress across the board.

     “Someone asked me recently what I did, and I said I was a lawyer,” Harper said with a laugh.